Sleep has been related to emotional functioning. However, the extent to which emotional salience is processed during sleep is unknown. To address this concern, we investigated night sleep in healthy adults regarding brain reactivity to the emotionally (happily, fearfully) spoken meaningless syllables dada, along with correspondingly synthesized nonvocal sounds. Electroencephalogram (EEG) signals were continuously acquired during an entire night of sleep while we applied a passive auditory oddball paradigm. During all stages of sleep, mismatch negativity (MMN) in response to emotional syllables, which is an index for emotional salience processing of voices, was detected. In contrast, MMN to acoustically matching nonvocal sounds was undetected during Sleep Stage 2 and 3 as well as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Post-MMN positivity (PMP) was identified with larger amplitudes during Stage 3, and at earlier latencies during REM sleep, relative to wakefulness. These findings clearly demonstrated the neural dynamics of emotional salience processing during the stages of sleep.
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